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Ex-cop Kim Potter found guilty of manslaughter for death of Daunte Wright

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

We begin this hour in Minnesota, where a jury today convicted a white former police officer of manslaughter in the death of a 20-year-old Black man. Kimberly Potter said she meant to use her Taser instead of her handgun when she fatally shot Daunte Wright as he tried to evade arrest during a traffic stop back in April. Joining us now with the latest is reporter Matt Sepic of Minnesota Public Radio. He has been following this trial. Hi, Matt.

MATT SEPIC, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: So this jury deliberated for around 28 hours over three days, I understand. Can you just tell us about the charges that they were considering?

SEPIC: Yeah. Potter was charged with both first- and second-degree manslaughter. The key issues all throughout the trial were not who pulled the trigger - that was never in dispute - but rather negligence and recklessness, the main elements of the manslaughter counts. Potter took the stand in her own defense last week and, often sobbing, expressed remorse for shooting Daunte Wright. The manslaughter charges were slightly different, but she was convicted of both of them. Here is Judge Regina Chu reading the verdicts earlier this afternoon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

REGINA CHU: We the jury on the charge of manslaughter in the first degree while committing a misdemeanor on or about April 11, 2021, in Hennepin County, state of Minnesota, find the defendant guilty.

SEPIC: And I should note, Ailsa, that prosecutors brought that first-degree manslaughter charge more than four months after they filed the original criminal complaint following outcry from some in the community that second-degree manslaughter just wasn't serious enough. After Chu read the verdict, she then ordered that Potter be taken into custody. Potter's attorneys asked for her to be released on bail, a request Chu immediately denied. A sheriff's deputy then handcuffed Potter and escorted her out of the courtroom.

CHANG: So tell us. What's the reaction to the verdict been so far?

SEPIC: Well, Potter stood pretty much expressionless as Chu read the verdict. That was a clear contrast to the emotion she expressed last Friday, when she was on the stand testifying in her own defense. A crowd of about 100 people who gathered in support of the Wright family expressed relief and began celebrating outside the courthouse when they learned the news. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison also gave a brief statement. The conviction comes eight months after many of the same attorneys in his office secured the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd. Ellison said the jury held Potter accountable, but there can't truly be justice for the Wright family because they'll be spending their first Christmas without Daunte.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEITH ELLISON: Justice is beyond the reach that we have in this life for Daunte. But accountability is an important step, a critical, necessary step on the road to justice for us all.

SEPIC: And Wright's mother, Katie Bryant, also spoke at that same news conference alongside Attorney General Ellison.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KATIE BRYANT: The moment that we heard guilty on manslaughter one, emotions - every single emotion that you could imagine just running through your body at that moment. I kind of let out a yelp because it was built up in the anticipation of what was to come while we were waiting for the last few days.

CHANG: Well, let me ask you, Matt - it appeared that much of what the jury had to consider was testimony about Kim Potter's training, you know, as a 26-year veteran of the police force. Can you tell us why that testimony was especially significant here?

SEPIC: Well, prosecutors noted throughout the eight days of testimony that Potter had extensive knowledge of police procedures and had a lot of experience training younger officers, something she was doing when she shot Daunte Wright. And the government also highlighted the fact that the company that makes Tasers specifically warns users not to confuse the device with a handgun because both of them are fired by pulling a trigger.

CHANG: That is reporter Matt Sepic of Minnesota Public Radio. Thank you, Matt.

SEPIC: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BLACK KEYS SONG, "SO HE WON'T BREAK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Matt Sepic